© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Roy Main, chief administrative officer for the City of Charlottetown reads a motion as Mayor Clifford listens during Monday nights regular meeting of council.
It's going to cost a little bit more money to ride the bus in the greater Charlottetown area beginning Jan. 30.
Council unanimously approved a 25 cent rate hike at its regular public monthly meeting Monday night.
As of Jan. 30, it will cost $2.25 to ride the bus in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall for per adult, senior and student. The monthly pass jumps to $65 for an adult and $45 for students and seniors. Children under 6 years old will still ride free.
The vote was 8-0 at council's meeting. Absent were Couns. Terry Bernard and Rob Lantz.
Increasing the fares was one of the big recommendations in the Dillon Report, a consulting firm from Ontario with more than 30 years experience in the transit industry. Monday night's meeting was the first time council has actually talked about specifics in that report.
"It's a modest increase,'' said Coun. Mitchell Tweel, chair of the committee responsible for transit. "The modest increase helps with maintenance and fuel . . . I mean, anytime you are providing a service it costs money so I think it's a reasonable increase, nothing exorbitant.''
Richard Puccini, one of the consultants who produced the report, was asked to look at the system after Mike Cassidy, who owns the bus service, revealed last year that it cost him $1.8 million a year to run it. He also reported losing $126,000 on the system in 2009.
Among the issues Puccini looked at was how to make the service more financially viable and increase ridership.
At present, approximately 300,000 people use the transit system in the capital region each year.
Tweel didn't have the exact numbers Monday night but he said it's safe to assume the 25-cent increase will net in the area of an extra $50,000 to $75,000 per year.
"The modest increase helps with maintenance and fuel . . . I mean, anytime you are providing a service it costs money so I think it's a reasonable increase, nothing exorbitant.'' Coun. Mitchell Tweel, chair of transit committee
The subsidy the municipality provides to the transit system is also increasing, from $640,000 a year to roughly $700,000. Transit also receives $137,000 annually from Stratford and $60,000 from Cornwall. Fares and the subsidies account for 80 per cent of the costs.
Tweel also points out the city will act on another recommendation from the Dillon report - the buses will be more visible on University Avenue.
Beginning Jan. 30, buses will move up and down the main artery in the capital every 15 minutes.
"We believe it will increase our ridership in terms of the new routes. I think (every 15 minutes) is a remarkable step in the right direction,'' Tweel said.
The transit system will also be unveiling a new marketing plan to address complaints that the schedule was too hard to read.
Tweel added that all buses in the system are now fully accessible.
Tweel hopes revamping the system will also ease the strain on parking in the downtown core.
"If we don't perfect and enhance and work on making our transit system better, what are the options? Building a new (parking) garage where you have to spend $10 million of the taxpayers' money?''
Meanwhile, the city has signed a contract with the towns of Stratford and Cornwall to provide regional service through Sept. 30, 2015 with two options of renewal for periods of 10 years each.